How-to

How to know the different types of yarn

Before I go on too much about crochet stitches, I thought we should look at yarn. I mean, without yarn there is no crochet, right? *Gosh, that’s so deep… Haha*

Yarn is a broad term describing all types of materials used to crochet (or knit). All types of yarn are made from natural or synthetic fibers – and sometimes a mix of both. Different yarn fibers are better used for different crochet projects, so let’s have a look at their qualities…

So much yarn… So little time…

Wool

When people hear the word ‘yarn’ they often automatically think ‘wool’. Wool (or a blend of wool with other materials) is one of the most popular choices for crocheters and knitters alike.

There are actually a number of different types of wool, all originally spun from the fleece of sheep: lamb, Merino, Shetland, Icelandic…

Wool is soft, easy to work with, and super resilient – so it’s great for clothes and things you want to endure the years. It’s an great choice for practicing your crochet stitches as the stitches are very obvious.

Just be aware of any possible wool allergies, either in yourself or in those you’re making the crochet item for… If you *do* have a wool allergy, try using a synthetic yarn (e.g. acrylic) instead.

Fleece

Fleece yarn includes cashmere and mohair, spun from goats; angora, spun from gorgeous angora rabbits; and alpaca, spun from, well, alpacas. The fleece from these animals are all cut or shorn just like wool from a sheep – completely painless and, in some cases like the angora rabbit, necessary for their health.

You might find people also classify these types of yarn as ‘wool’.

Silk, cotton, linen

These are all made from different fibers, but all have the attributes of being slippery, smooth and often shiney.

Silk yarn is spun from the cocoons of silk worms. It’s lightweight and absorbent, making it a good option for warm weather clothing. Apparently silk is often combined with cotton or wool to increase it’s elasticity and durability.

Cotton is a very versatile type of yarn. It’s washable, durable and comes in many different weights / thicknesses (more on that in my next post). It’s great for tablecloths, potholders, curtains, doilies, washcloths, clothes, bags… Almost anything! However, it has very little elasticity which can make it a challenge for beginners to crochet with.

Synthetic

Synthetic yarn covers acrylic, nylon, rayon and polyester – acrylic being the most common. The common theme here is they’re all 100% man-made, designed to look like natural fiber. Synthetic yarns come in all shapes, sizes, colours, and are usually much cheaper than natural fiber yarns.

I’d say this means you should be careful buying synthetic yarn. Cheaper isn’t always better as some of the really cheap-and-nasty stuff can split apart which makes it hard to use… But natural fiber isn’t always the best either! It depends on the requirements of the crochet project – both the aesthetics and durability.

Acrylic yarn is great for making afghans and baby blankets because they’re usually super soft, unlikely to cause skin reactions as they’re not a natural fiber, and is usually much more affordable than other types of yarn! (And trust me, you always need more yarn than you think to make any type of blanket…)

Technically, the synthetic category can also include some plant-based yarns, such as bamboo, soy and corn as they’re highly processed in order to become yarn. But I’ve only ever come across bamboo…

Novelty

Novelty yarns are so fun to look at and usually only require you to use a basic stitch to get a fun look going – but they’re not always fun to work with as it can often be hard to distinguish each stitch… If you do try a novelty yarn, it’s often suggested to double up with a plain acrylic yarn of a similar or even contrasting colour to help make each stitch more obvious – depending on the type of novelty yarn, of course. Overall, I’d steer-clear of novelty yarns if you’re a beginner – just for the time that you’re still learning and gaining precious crochet experience.

Knitting for Dummies list some examples of novelty yarn:

  • Ribbon: A knitted ribbon in rayon or a rayon blend.
  • Bouclé: This highly bumpy, textured yarn is composed of loops.
  • Chenille: Although tricky to knit with, this yarn has an attractive appearance and velvety texture.
  • Thick-thin: Alternates between very thick and thin sections, which lends a bumpy look to knitted fabric.
  • Railroad ribbon: Has tiny “tracks” of fiber strung between two parallel strands of thread.
  • Faux fur: Fluffy fiber strands on a strong base thread of nylon resemble faux fur when knitted.

Other types of yarn

All in all, you can crochet with pretty much anything that resembles ‘string’ – even actual string!

Last year I started experimenting with cutting fabric into long thin strips and crocheting little bowls. And now you can buy huge balls of it from Lincraft. Clearly I’ve started a trend, haha!

I’ve also seen *awesome* videos on Facebook showing women in developing countries recycling plastic bags by cutting them into long thin strips and using them to crochet handbags and baskets and things! *So inspiring!*

In fact, the One Million Women blog also have a fantastic post about how *WE* can recycle plastic bags to make sleeping mats for the homeless! *Brilliant!*

Sleeping mats for the homeless, crocheted using plastic bags!

What’s your favourite type of yarn to use and why? What’s the most unusual fiber you’ve used as yarn? I’d love to see your projects made from left-field yarn types! Hit me up in the comments below. Happy crocheting! 

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